Fear and Loathing in the Revolutionary Guards
In an act of open insubordination, during the March 10th demonstrations in Tehran, seven members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) security forces refused to shoot at protesters on the streets. Arrested and jailed in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison for interrogation, they are still being interrogated as the Iranian regime’s authorities debate how to deal with them.
During the interrogations the regime’s intelligence sources have repeatedly warned the seven -- identities still unknown -- that they must reveal the names of the "leaders" of the organization(s) they are taking orders from, as well as disclose the names of any other member of the IRGC and Basij forces working undercover.
To that end, the commanders of the Basij have joined the interrogators and are absolutely determined to make the connection between the insubordinate guards and the authors of a recent letter written to Mohammad-Ali Jafari, the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards. The open letter, published at various sites, was penned by a number of top-ranking but anonymous members of the IRGC. In it, they announce their defiance of their orders and their refusal to treat protesters with violence.
The accused reject all knowledge of such a letter.
The commanders of the IRGC are said to be debating the proper form of disciplinary action. Where a few have suggested that firing them would be just punishment, the majority are reluctant to consider letting it go at that, certain that any and all those who refuse to follow orders must be severely punished.
But execution does not seem to be an effective deterrent. Back in August 2010, a number of the IRGC members who were arrested and detained for insubordination were drugged and then buried alive. But, of course, the news didn’t stay under wraps for very long. Soon enough, it was widely reported by blogs and human rights organizations.
Mohammad Naghdi, the head of the Basij auxiliary militia, has suggested that dissenting guards’ wives and children (over 12) should also be arrested. But others in the intelligence ranks feel that the insubordinates should be severely disciplined precisely to keep it all under wraps, depriving the opposition of yet another tool to use against the Iranian regime. Jafari, for his part, has firmly maintained that direct disobedience of orders is treason -- and an inexcusable offense against the holy principles of the military forces who are there to defend the Iranian regime.
With the blessings of the supreme leader, Jafari has begun to set up a task force to investigate and counteract the further spread of dissent in the ranks. The task force will be comprised of handpicked members of the Quds Force and its mission is twofold: first, to send undercover members of the IRGC or Basij to infiltrate dissenting groups, and, second, to publicize and discredit the subversives in order to discourage further defections.
It is said that in a private meeting with Khamenei, Jafari expressed his fear of a domino effect within the region given the influence of recent events throughout the Middle East and North Africa upon his ranks. Jafari stressed that news of the Libyan pilots who fled Libya in a fighter jet for Malta and the defections of other Libyan military personnel could reverberate throughout the Iranian military and trigger similar actions.